Word of the Week: Business Email Compromise
With cybercrime on the rise, compliance professionals need to be vigilant about new scams and fraud. This week we will talk about Business Email Compromise or BEC.
According to the FBI, BEC—also known as email account compromise (EAC)—is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. It exploits the fact that so many of us rely on email to conduct business—both personal and professional.
In a BEC scam, criminals send an email message that appears to come from a known source making a legitimate request, like in these examples:
A vendor your company regularly deals with sends an invoice with an updated mailing address.
A company CEO asks her assistant to purchase dozens of gift cards to send out as employee rewards. She asks for the serial numbers so she can email them out right away.
A homebuyer receives a message from his title company with instructions on how to wire his down payment.
Versions of these scenarios happened to real victims. All the messages were fake. And in each case, thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars were sent to criminals instead.
How Criminals Carry Out BEC Scams
A scammer might:
Spoof an email account or website. Slight variations on legitimate addresses (email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org) fool victims into thinking fake accounts are authentic.
Send spearphishing emails. These messages look like they’re from a trusted sender to trick victims into revealing confidential information. That information lets criminals access company accounts, calendars, and data that gives them the details they need to carry out the BEC schemes.
Use malware. Malicious software can infiltrate company networks and gain access to legitimate email threads about billing and invoices. That information is used to time requests or send messages so accountants or financial officers don’t question payment requests. Malware also lets criminals gain undetected access to a victim’s data, including passwords and financial account information.